In this Season of Advent 2008 it has occurred to me that there might be a hidden benefit in the difficult economic times we're going through. Could it be that in these circumstances we may concentrate less on material things and more heavily on spiritual matters as we prepare to celebrate our Savior's birth? In that light I was reminded of a story I shared with you in a Gray Matter some years ago, so I've decided to repeat it here.
While reminiscing with my dear friend Janice Petersen Strohmeier, who, sadly, is no longer with us, we started talking about the Niemann Jewelry Store, long a fixture on Main Street here in our small town. The owners were Ray and Louise Niemann. Jan's story went something like this.
One day when she and her sisters were very small, their dad brought the "three little stair steps," as she called them, into town and dropped them off at Niemann's Jewelry while he did other errands. Each of the girls was carrying her piggy bank in which she had been hoarding pennies. They planned to pool them to buy a Christmas present for their mother. Mr. Niemann welcomed them as they carefully reached up to empty their precious banks on the high counter. Jan, the eldest, explained their mission. Nodding, he told them to look around and see what they would like to have for their mom. They eyed all of the pretty things on the shelves and in the glass-enclosed display cases. After a while, they agreed on precisely what they wanted. It was a precious little figurine which they knew their mother would love. They pointed it out and the jeweler brought it down from the shelf and sat it on the counter near where he had been counting the pennies. Close up, it was even more enchanting. Then, shyly hoping against hope that they could afford it, Janice asked the price. With a benevolent smile, just as he counted the last coin, Mr. Niemann announced, "Look at this! You have brought in exactly the right amount of money." Delighted, they watched as he carefully put the little figurine in a box, wrapped it in colorful paper and tied it with a bow. Then the happy trio hurried out with their precious package to find Dad and tell him of their good fortune.
Janice was almost in tears as she finished the story, saying, "Such a dear man! We never gave it a thought at the time, but in these later years the three of us have often recalled our little shopping trip and wondered just how much he did subsidize Mom's Christmas gift, but of course we will never know."
I hope this story will bring back special memories for each of you, memories which might help you prepare for a truly spiritual Christmas observance. I am no longer able to do all of the decorating and baking I once did, but I am grateful that I can still relish fond memories and sincerely worship Him whose birth we celebrate, and I wish the same for all of you.